Pritam Singh’s forgotten role in the allegations about SPF which have never been retracted
Workers' Party leader dismissed the harm done to Singapore Police Force by Raeesah Khan's lies - but seems to have forgotten his involvement in the affair.
For all the bravado exhibited during the hearing in front of the Committee of Privileges, which seems to have helped the party to recoup some balance after many blows it has suffered in the past few weeks, Pritam Singh made three mistakes which may yet undo this progress.
I mentioned the first one in my earlier post - he has inadvertently exposed himself not as a leader but as a lawyer in handling the party affairs, sleeping at the wheel until the relatively minor issue snowballed into a catastrophic crisis, while leaving a lie uncorrected in parliament for 3 long months, wasting SPF resources and everybody else's time.
The other two mistakes are directly related to allegations against the Singapore Police Force - and Pritam Singh's own direct role in keeping them alive.
The first of the two was trying to play down the harm done to SPF.
I honestly have no idea what he tried to accomplish through that. It seems that he has, again, followed his habits as a lawyer. He must have felt he's dealing with a hopeless case and tried to use every possible way that he would typically do to get the lowest, most favorable sentence.
In this spirit, he tried to dismiss the severity of the crime just like lawyers attempt to do in courts.
But this is the court... of public opinion. And he's a politician.
People like the SPF, people trust the SPF and most of them will feel it unjust to tarnish its reputation through lies and false allegations - particularly done by politicians (who never enjoy the same level of support).
How can any political leader - particularly one with some (I presume) ambitions to perhaps govern the country one day - deliberately turn an entire police force against himself? And for what? He gained nothing through that and downplaying the lie is not going to make the committee hearings stop either.
So, it was a disastrous political blunder - though, as I said, understandable from a lawyer's perspective (which seems to have led him astray).
And by making this mistake he has clearly forgotten that the essence of Raeesah's story was never retracted - and that he himself played a part in perpetuating it.
It looks as though everybody has forgotten that there were TWO parts to the unfortunate tale - but Raeesah corrected only one.
It was an account of a sexual assault victim having a judgmental, insensitive experience at a police station. Raeesah Khan admitted she never accompanied the victim, like she described - but said the story was an anecdote shared in a survivor group. Was it a lie too? We don't know.
This means that the allegation of mishandling the case by the police was never withdrawn. It could still be true - it's just one degree of separation further from the original told by RK in August.
She wasn't there to witness it but the victim - she claims - is still out there. This allegation was NEVER corrected.
And the person responsible for it is... Pritam Singh.
Leaving aside the fact that he did nothing for 2 months between August and October, he later intervened in the case directly two times, shaping its further course and keeping the accusations against SPF alive until today.
Firstly, when Raeesah Khan received, in October, THREE messages from the police, inviting her to assist in the investigations, he advised her against it.
I'm sorry but there's no other way of putting it - the party leader, who had long known about the lie himself, impeded the ongoing police investigation because it was politically expedient for him to do so.
Even if it was within Raeesah's rights to ignore the invitations it certainly doesn't suggest good will from the party leadership - which, at this point, could still have saved the SPF from a wild goose chase.
Since Raeesah Khan asked WP leaders for advice, it was their decision that forced the SPF down the wrong alley, as they bought themselves more time.
Even if it wasn't illegal it seems to have been pretty immoral - what, in politics, can be even worse.
The second element Pritam and WP leaders appear to be directly responsible for is Raeesah's statement admitting to the lie on Nov. 1 - which has failed to retract the entire allegation against SPF.
She testified, in front of CoP, that the statement was co-drafted with the help of Pritam Singh and Sylvia Lim - and, of course, approved by Pritam before being delivered in the parliament.
And in it, she admitted only to lying about her role in the anecdote but not fabricating the entire allegation, what still leaves a possibility that the story is true and may be believed by many Singaporeans.
After all, how much does it matter if it's a first or second hand account?
In reality, this is the only correction that Raeesah Khan - with assistance of WP leaders - has made: that her story wasn't a first hand but merely a second hand experience.
This obviously leaves a lasting stain on the Singapore Police Force's reputation that Raeesah's admission did not wash away.
When questioned about it in front of CoP Pritam Singh turned again to lawyer-speak in playing down the allegation - i.e. that harm to SPF was minimal because it was not substantiated.
But this is not how public opinion works.
Rumors can destroy lives and people like to believe gossip - which is often impossible to stop once it gets out of hand (particularly in the internet era).
Under his direction the party first kept mum about the facts for 2 months and later engaged in self-serving damage control which delayed and, effectively, misdirected SPF investigation into the matter by having Raeesah ignore invitations to assist in it.
It then culminated with the public admission to the lie in the parliament but never undid the damage made to SPF, as Raeesah maintains the story itself was likely true, as it was shared - by her account - in an assault survivor group.
The gravity of the fallout of this scandal cannot be overstated. The Workers' Party is trying to dig itself out of the mess it has created and it is doing so by downplaying the lasting harm done to the main victim of the lie - the SPF.
Given how emotional politics are - as I explained lately - it has now resulted (judging at least by some online commentary) in turning the most blindly devoted WP followers against the Singapore Police Force, as they are now viciously defending the party over the officers serving to protect their lives every day.
How can anybody claim the damage is minimal?